The AFL has opted to relocate at least five clubs to Queensland as concern grows about the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.
GWS and Sydney have been based in Victoria since June 22 due to NSW’s coronavirus crisis but were told late on Wednesday night about their next impending move.
The Sydney teams were meant to play their derby in Ballarat on Saturday but that is likely to be played at the Gabba in Brisbane.
“About nine o’clock, 9.15 (Wednesday night) there was a conversation with the AFL that this is a possibility because we’re playing the Giants and they’re in the same situation,” Swans chief executive Tom Harley told SEN.
“About five minutes later (players were told). The competition is pretty well-drilled at this now and when you talk about the prospects of Victoria and the COVID situation there, it just provides some flexibility in getting to Queensland.”
The AFL had been working with both clubs to reunite players with their families, who have been without their partners and fathers since before Sydney’s lockdown began.
“It’s been a disruptive week on a number of fronts but it’s our turn to work our way through that,” Harley said.
“Our primary concern has been the reunification of partners and families. It’s been over three weeks now.
“We are working closely with the AFL on what the options might be for that. It will continue to be the case regardless of where the team is based.”
The Giants and Swans will be joined on flights out of Melbourne on Thursday by the Western Bulldogs, Essendon and North Melbourne.
The Bulldogs will fly out earlier than usual to ensure their clash with the Gold Coast Suns on Saturday afternoon can go ahead as planned.
And while just two brand new cases were announced by the Victorian health department on Thursday the AFL continues to look beyond this weekend’s fixture.
The Bombers-Kangaroos game will be moved from Marvel Stadium to Queensland in a bid to keep other matches rolling.
Essendon are due to host GWS and Sydney at Marvel Stadium in rounds 19 and 20 respectively but those games could now be played in neutral territory while the Bombers spend time in Queensland.
The news would be a blow to the Dons’ finals hopes as they battle with the Giants, St Kilda, West Coast, Fremantle and Richmond for seventh and eighth on the AFL ladder.
North Melbourne are scheduled to face Carlton in Melbourne in round 19 and Geelong in Tasmania in round 20.
“The decisions we have made this morning regarding the locations of a number of teams have been taken out of an abundance of caution. Our approach remains to take risk out of the season where the opportunity presents,” fixtures boss Travis Auld said.
“We continue to work towards our priority of reuniting the families of both the GWS Giants and Sydney Swans and the decision to relocate both sides to Queensland provides maximum flexibility required to achieve that.
“The Western Bulldogs’ travel is one day earlier than scheduled and provides the Dogs with certainty as they prepare for their match against the Gold Coast Suns.
“The decision to relocate the North Melbourne and Essendon match to Queensland is a precautionary measure that provides flexibility for future rounds.
“As we have throughout the course of the pandemic, we will continue to take measures to ensure that we best manage and minimise risk for those in our game and in the wider community.”
AFL meetings on Thursday will decide what happens with the remainder of round 18 as exposure sites in Victoria continue to be added.
– with 7NEWS